Press Releases

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Highmark observes International Overdose Awareness Day with commemorative light-up of Fifth Avenue Place headquarters, comprehensive approach to recovery

PITTSBURGH (August 30, 2022)—Highmark’s Fifth Avenue Place headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh will glow purple on August 31 to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day. International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual, global event to end overdoses, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of families and friends left behind.

The commemorative light-up of Fifth Avenue Place is one component of Highmark’s broader recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, and its comprehensive approach to substance use disorder that focuses on primary prevention, safe prescribing, high-quality treatment, community supports and combating stigma.

Through these efforts, Highmark has reduced overdoses among its commercial risk, Medicare Advantage and Affordable Care Act members in Pennsylvania by about 37 percent over the past three years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption while accelerating technological advancement through telemedicine. But our efforts face headwinds from increasing adulteration with deadly synthetic opioids of non-prescription drugs and fake prescription drugs” says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. “Our continued focus is improving quality of pain management, safe prescribing and enhancing efforts to promote early screening for substance use disorders in primary care offices in order to identify and address problems when they are still small.”

Harnessing the power of its own team members, Highmark has established a grass-roots organization known as LEARN. LEARN is comprised of more than 600 Highmark, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and other Highmark companies’ team members who come together to Learn more about substance use disorders; Educate others; Advocate for reforms and effective treatment, and support Recovery and Network amongst themselves, within their communities and organizations to dispel stigma and promote harm reduction.

In addition to driving the Fifth Avenue Place light-up commemoration for International Overdose Awareness Day, LEARN hosted a webinar for Highmark and AHN team members about substance use disorders and coping with grief and loss, and created a video to pay tribute to loved ones and friends that they have lost.

“In 2022, LEARN furthered its mission of creating a recovery-friendly workplace by highlighting the dangers of opioids, exploring the benefits harm reduction, discussing equitable care for all populations, celebrating those in recovery, and remembering those we lost,” says Josie Morgano substance use disorder program manager for Highmark. “So many employees at Highmark are deeply concerned about the opioid epidemic.  They want to act and LEARN provides opportunities for them through its educational sessions and advocacy work.”

Highmark has also reduced by 14 percent the number of Pennsylvania members who are newly prescribed opioids over the past three years, and increased by 39 percent the number of members who receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) after being diagnosed with opioid use disorder or after being brought into treatment for opioid use disorder. MAT is high-quality, evidenced-based treatment that supports patients with a multi-disciplinary care team and medications that allow individuals to stop abusing opioids without experiencing powerful drug cravings or severe withdrawal symptoms.

Highmark supports community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders in its core markets. Highmark’s Financial Investigations and Provider Review (FIPR) Team has also engaged more than 10,000 students, parents and educators in western Pennsylvania through its Opioid Epidemic Education Program. The program empowers people with knowledge and resources to respond to opioid dependence in their communities.

About Highmark Inc.
One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of approximately 6.8 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit www.highmark.com

For more information, contact:

David Golebiewski
Highmark Health
412-216-6305
David.golebiewski@highmarkhealth.org